A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Vaera Rosh Chodesh Shevat 5763 January 4, 2002 Vol.12 No.13
In This Issue:
Rabbi Moshe Stavsky
Halacha of the Week
Rabbi Howard Jachter
Hope for the Future
by Rabbi Moshe Stavsky
Parshat Vaera begins with Hakadosh Baruch Hu instructing Moshe to tell Bnai Yisrael that he will take them out of the slavery of Mitzrayim and bring them to Eretz Yisrael. Immediately following this we are told “Velo Shamu El Moshe Mikotzer Ruach Umayavoda Kasha,” meaning, “they did not listen to Moshe due to shortness of breath and hard work.”
Although the Torah tells us explicitly why Bnai Yisrael didn’t listen to Moshe’s message, the commentators explore whether this constituted a lack of Bitachon on the part of the nation or not. Some are of the opinion that it merely reflects a difficult situation, which made it almost impossible for Bnai Yisrael to believe what Moshe was telling him.
Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, in his commentary Meshech Chochma, makes an interesting comment on the reaction of Bnai Yisrael. Moshe makes two points in his statement to the Nation. Firstly, Hashem will redeem Bnai Yisrael and rescue them from slavery. Secondly, they are told that Hashem will bring them to the land promised to their forefathers, Eretz Yisrael. The Meshech Chochma explains that while the first point made by Moshe resonated with Bnai Yisrael, the second Havtacha was beyond what they could deal with at the time. As slaves in Mitzrayim, the most basic need of the Nation was attaining freedom. To speak to them about becoming a great Nation in a land flowing with milk and honey was beyond their immediate aspirations and therefore seen as unattainable. In fact, the Meshech Chochma suggests somewhat tongue in cheek, that immediately following this exchange Moshe is instructed by Hashem to speak only of leaving Egypt and not mention the next part of the plan. Given the situation of the moment, it was not an idea that Bnai Yisrael could relate to.
Certainly we can understand the logic of this point of view. It would be foolish to speak with a high school student about taking honors courses and receiving enrichment if that same student is coming to school hungry or not having his other basic needs met. To do so would be unhelpful and depressing. We must then ask why Hakadosh Baruch Hu instructed Moshe to relate this to Bnai Yisrael in the first place. Why was it important for them to hear the full plan at a time whne they had more pressing needs facing them?
Perhaps we can suggest that although a goal seems unattainable and even irrelevant at the time, it’s essential that we recognize that goal seems unattainable and even irrelevant at the time, its essential that we recognize that goal and realize its importance. This informs and gives added meaning to the more basic steps which can now be seen as part of a greater picture. In this was it is certainly not irrelevant.
Unfortunately, the situation facing Medinat Yisrael in the past two years can give way to diminishing aspirations. Instead of dreaming of Am Yisrael, building Eretz Yisrael Al Pi Torat Yisrael, we dream of being able to walk the streets of Yerushalayim and travel on buses safely. Instead of dreaming about spiritual growth for our children when they go off to study in Israel, we hope and pray that they stay safe and out of harms way. Although we clearly must deal with the basic needs threatening by our present situation, it is imperative that we don’t loose sight of the lofty dreams and aspirations of Tzion and a Geula Sheleima.
by Jerry Karp
In Parshat Vaera, 6:6, Hashem says that He will redeem Bnai Yisrael “Bizroa Netuya,” – “with an outstretched arm.” This phrase is usually used in conjunction with the phrase, “Biyad Chazaka,” “with a strong hand.” However, in this Pasuk, the latter phrase is missing.
The Haaymek Davar explains that each phrase has a specific connotation. He quotes the passage found in the Haggada which says that “Bizroa Netuya” signifies “Cherev,” the sword, while “Biyad Chazaka” signifies “Dever,” the plague. By the Maka of Dever, it says that the “hand of Hashem” will strike the cattle of Egypt. From this, the Haggada derives that “Biyad Chazaka” signifies Dever. The Haaymek Davar explains that this “Yad Chazaka,” which implemented the Dever, was an instrument of force. However, the redemption of Bnai Yisrael from Egypt did not require force, since all of Bnai Yisrael were willing to leave. Therefore, the “Yad Chazaka” is not mentioned by the final redemption.
However, the “Ziroa Netuya” had to be mentioned. The Haaymek Davar explains that if Pharo had been able to discuss the matter with his advisors, he would ultimately have decided to kill all of Bnai Yisrael. After all, Hashem was plaguing his people because he would not let Bnai Yisrael go. If Pharo killed all of Bnai Yisrael however, there would no longer be a reason to plague all of Egypt. To prevent Pharo from considering this option, while Hashem was constantly sending Makot against the people of Egypt, He was also killing Pharo’s advisors, in between the actual Makot. In this way, Pharo never actually contemplated this solution that would have had dire consequences for Bnai Yisrael. The phrase “Bizroa Netuya,” representing the sword, denotes this strategy.
In addition, the Haaymek Davar may also be answering the famous philisophical question regarding the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim. Many ask, “How is it possible that Hashem could have coerced Pharo into doing His will by ‘hardening his heart?’ Is this not a violation of Bechirat Chofshit?” However, the Haaymek Davar seems to explain that this “hardening of heart” does not mean that Hashem did not allow Pharo to think about letting Bnai Yisrael out of Egypt. Rather, it means that Hashem did not allow for Pharo’s contemplation of the matter, which would have led him to kill all of Bnai Yisrael. Had Hashem not implemented this plan, Bnai Yisrael would never have been allowed to leave. Hashem’s “Ziroa Netuya” caused the redemption of Bnai Yisrael.
by Aaron Koolyk
The opening Pesukim of the Parsha speak about the Brit between Hashem and the Avot. It seems that after four hundred years of being in Egypt, Bnai Yisrael will automatically be saved without having to do anything to initiate the Geula. However, maybe it is not so simple, and perhaps really Bnai Yisrael have to start the process.
Parshat Shemot ends with Moshe receiving two commandments from Hashem. The first was to notify Bnai Yisrael that Hashem will bring them to Eretz Yisrael, while the second was and to demand that Pharo let Bnai Yisrael go to the Midbar for three days to worship Hashem. Bnai Yisrael were very happy about this until Pharo added to their work, which made them complain to Moshe that he just made things worse for them. In the beginning of Vaera Hashem responds to this complaint by reminding Moshe of the Brit and giving him a third commandment of telling Bnai Yisrael “I am Hashem and I will take them out…”(6:6). This third commandment, can not simply be for reassurance, as Bnai Yisrael “did not listen to Moshe” (6:9) so it must have some greater significance.
To understand the extra significance the Pesukim must be analyzed. Bnai Yisrael’s rejection (of Moshe’s third commandment) is stated as “Velo Shamu El Moshe” (6:9). “Velo Shamu” can be translated in a number of ways. It can mean they did not hear (physically), they didn’t understand, they didn’t believe or they didn’t obey. The first two (hear and understand) don’t make sense in context, while the third (belief) could fit. However, then the Torah probably would have written “Velo Heeminu” as it did in 4:31. To obey (listen to it) also seems difficult because there doesn’t seem to be anything to obey. All Moshe told them is that Hashem will save them. A recurrence of this word a few Pesukim later can help explain its meaning. Pasuk 12 says that even Bnai Yisrael “Lo Shamu Eilai Veich Yishmaeini Pharo,” “they didn’t obey me, so how will Pharo?” Clearly “Shamu” in reference to Pharo means to obey (obey Hashem’s command to let Bnai Yisrael go). So for the Kal Vechomer of the Pasuk to make sense the “Shamu” in reference to Bnai Yisrael must also mean to obey. (The Pasuk only makes sense when it is interpreted as: why will Pharo obey (listen to) me if even Bnai Yisrael don’t obey me). Thus the previous difficulty with the translation of “Shamu” meaning “to obey” must be reconsidered; there must really be something which requires adherence (something to obey).
The words “Ani Hashem” recurs many times in Pesukim 6:2,6,7,8. The Torah must be implying that there is indeed a commandment not just to intellectually recognize Hashem, but to internalize His status of “Ani Hashem Elokeichem.” The first of the Aseret Hadibrot can be understood as this commandment to internalize Hashem’s per and to obey any of His laws. Thus the third commandment to Moshe was to teach Bnai Yisrael to accept Hashem in order for them to do Teshuva and bring the Geula. This explanation is proven from Yechezkel 20:5-8, where Yechezkel is telling some Zekeinim that Bnai Yisrael weren’t always good before Yetziat Mitzrayim. Hashem told Bnai Yisrael that “Ani Hashem Elokeichem” but they rebelled and said, “Lo Shamu Eilai” (there was rebellion involved in that they did not accept Hashem internally). Finally, Pasuk 13, Hashem’s response to Moshe can be explained. Moshe must tell both Pharo and Bnai Yisrael to let Bnai Yisrael leave Mitzrayim. Pharo was asked to permit Bnai Yisrael to leave, and Bnai Yisrael were told to initiate the Geula by internalizing Hashem and doing Teshuva.
-Adapted from a shiur given by Menachem Leibtag
What's His Name?
by Moshe Schechter
Chazal point out that Hashem is described differently to Moshe than He is to the Avot. To the Avot He is described as “Kel Shakai,” while to Moshe He is described as “Hashem.” However, there are some places where Hashem is described as “Hashem” to the Avot. Hashem first says in Bereishit 15:7, “I am Hashem who took you out of Ur Kasdim to give you this land as an inheritance.” Then, Hashem speaks to Yaakov in Bereishit 28:13 saying, “ I am Hashem, God of Avraham your father, God of Yitzchak. I will give you and your descendants the land upon which you lie.” Rashi explains these Pesukim by referring to a Pasuk in Shemot 6:3, where it is written, “I was not known to you my name Hashem.” Hashem does not say “I did not make known,” rather, He says “I was not known,” for His true nature was unknown to them. Hashem did say His name to the Avot, but they did not know its true meaning. According to Rashi, the meaning of “Hashem” is to fulfill promises, and when Hashem spoke to the Avot, He had not yet fulfilled His promises to them.
This poses another question. Why, during the time of the Avot, does Hashem not fully demonstrate His attributes to them? Was Moshe greater than the Avot? According to Chazal in Midrash Rabba of Shemot 6:4, not only was Moshe not greater than the Avot, but he was even rebuked for his lack of faith. According to the Kuzari (2:2), the fact that Moshe received greater revelation from Hashem had nothing to do with the greatness of Moshe’s generation, rather, it was because there were a great number of people who were doubtful of Hashem at the time. Therefore, a greater revelation was required. The Avot, though, were a small group of people with unbendable faith in Hashem, even throughout all the suffering during their lives. Therefore, such a great revelation was not necessary.
Halacha of the Week
One who is called for an Aliyah to the Torah should hold the Torah when he recites the Bracha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 139:11).
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